LOS ANGELES – Movie producers of a movie about Wall Street crooks, allegedly financed by Malaysian crooks, have agreed to pay the US government $60 million to settle claims that they benefited from a massive Malaysian corruption scandal.
The settlement between prosecutors and Red Granite Pictures Inc, the producer of The Wolf of Wall Street, was approved in US District Court in Los Angeles.
The case was part of an effort to recover more than $1 billion that prosecutors said was siphoned from 1MDB, the Malaysian state investment fund. The US Department of Justice said the complex money laundering scheme was intended to enrich top officials connected with the fund, including some close to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Money was diverted from the fund to buy properties in New York and California, a $35-million jet, art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, and a $260-million yacht.
Proceeds also went to fund movies by Red Granite Pictures, which was co-founded by Riza Aziz, Mr Najib’s stepson and a close friend of the Malaysian financier Jho Low, said to be the mastermind behind the systematic looting of 1MDB. Indonesian authorities recently seized the luxury yacht that Mr Low was said to have used regularly. His exact whereabouts are not known.
The funds financed the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio in a film about the excesses of a crooked stock trader. The settlement also included forfeiture claims to the rights of two other Red Granite productions: Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home.
The film production company said in a statement that it was happy to put the matter behind it so it could focus on film making.
The 1MDB case is the largest single action the Justice Department has taken under efforts to recover foreign bribery proceeds and embezzled funds and several other lawsuits are pending. Other countries including Singapore and Switzerland are conducting investigations.
The Malaysian government, meanwhile, has conducted only cursory investigations, and officials critical of the lack of action have been sidelined. Mr Najib, who must call an election this year, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.